1:32 And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’  34And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

It is hard to know exactly what John is describing here. Did he actually see a physical “dove” “descending from heaven”? If he is describing an actual physical event, did the other people who were there also see the dove?

Whatever actually took place in the physical realm, it is clear that something dramatic took place within the heart of John the Baptist. He moved from not knowing (“I myself did not know him”) to a place where he was able to see the deeper significance of the person of Jesus (“I myself have seen”). It matters much less what he saw in the external realm. What matters is that he had an inner experience of revelation. And John is clear, this revelation came to him, not because of anything he had done, or any virtue of his own; he received this vision “from heaven.”

The Bible is full of stories of revelation. These stories all raise the question of how we know what we think we know. It is impossible to talk someone into agreeing to the reality of the deeper mysteries of life. Those who are not able to see doves “descending from heaven,” will never see that “this is the Son of God.”

What might John mean by claiming that this revelation caused him to see and drove him to testify that “this is the Son of God”? There is a textual challenge here. Some early manuscripts have “this is the son of god,” while others have “this is the chosen one of god.” There is no question John the Gospel writer believed in the divinity of Jesus, designated by referring to him as God’s Son. But is this what John saw at this moment? Or did John have an experience that standing before him was a man who was especially called by God/chosen to fulfill a particular task?

If we take this second reading, John is not saying anything more, at this point, than can be said of any one of us. We are all “the chosen ones of God.” The Christian journey is to trust deeply in our chosenness. As we journey with John and listen deeply to the heart of truth, we will find that place within ourselves that is able to trust that we are chosen.